Monday, August 31, 2009

Is your Calvin Begay really Calvin Begay?

This report is offered by Aboriginals: Art of the First Person, purveyors of fine tribal art at,, and, where we sell authentic, and only authentic, Calvin Begay jewelry.

Calvin is one of our our favorite jewelry artists. We have been offering his work for years.

Now, the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper reports that fakes purporting to be Calvin's work have shown up in at least one Santa Fe Native Art store.

Actually, we are not too surprised. Whenever an artist reaches the renown that Calvin has, he or she becomes a target for counterfeiters.

Calvin's history makes him a more vulnerable target than most.

He has been an atelier artist, in the tradition of such famous atelier masters as Michelangelo and DaVinci. This approach to art includes a number of “sous-chefs” that work on the master's designs under the master's supervision. It also allows the artist to influence and produce more work than if he or she was working on his or her own.

For a while, Calvin worked with A Touch of Santa Fe in Gallup, using a skilled staff of silversmiths and lapidary artists.

Almost all the work designed and made there carried both Calvin's signature ant the TSF stamp.

A few years back, Calvin and TSF went separate ways. Well, at least Calvin did. TSF continued to use Calvin's designs and some of his silversmiths and lapidary artists. The company also continued to identify the pieces as Calvin's work.

This ended when Calvin insisted that they stop and he moved to a new studio to create his work.

For a short interim period, there were pieces that were designed by Calvin but did not carry his signature. But it was a very limited number. It is identified by the precision of the inlay. Work done after Calvin left is definitely inferior.

Now, as indicated, there has been a gallery in Santa Fe selling work that it said was done by Calvin but he says was not.

According to the New Mexican newspaper, when a piece purchased at the store was shown to Calvin he said it was not his but was similar.

“TSF continues to use my designs,” Calvin claimed. “although I have instructed the business not to use my name stamp.”

The New Mexico Consumer Protection Division has sued the dealer, accusing them of manufacturing and selling pieces of jewelry that were falsely represented as having been made by Calvin. They also were accused of giving illegal discounts.

There is a moral to most stories.

This one is to always deal with dealers you know and trust. Be suspicious of “bargain” prices. Ask specific questions to get specific answers. If it sounds too good to be true, chances are a hundred-to-one it isn't true.

Aboriginals Gallery and our Native-JewelryLink web site absolutely guarantees that any piece we represent as being Calvin Begay's is Calvin Begay's. The same is true for any piece of jewelery or art we offer.

If a buyer is unhappy with their purchase from us after receiving it, we will return 100% of the purchase price.

And those prices are low because we are an exclusive online dealer, with the low overhead of the internet.

Update: New Mexico Attorney General has settled the fraud case against Santa Fe stores selling fake Calvin Begay jewelry. Store owners will pay restitution and a $10,000 fine, plus reimburse other purchasers who bought jewelry misrepresented as being the work of Calvin Begay. To qualify, submit the actual item along with an invoice or receipt to Office of the Attorney General, Consumer Protection Division, Jewelry Restitution Program, P.O. Drawer 1508, Santa Fe, NM 87504.

We recommend that you photograph and insure your piece(s) in order to track them after sending to the AG

Update: We received a letter from the Indian Arts and Crafts Board of the US Department of Interior announcing their joint efforts with the New Mexico Attorney General to shut down the sale of fake Indian arts and crafts. We say "bravo". It's about time.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Day 10 - 12 - The end is near.

This is the final report from the tour William Ernest and Susanne Waites to the National Parks of the Western US. Our granddaughter was with us. On these two days, we introduced her to the Native American culture reflected in our web sites:,, and .

As the end of our tour of the National Park draws close, we are starting to get itchy to move on.

Nothing had been formally planned for the next two days. We only needed to be in Salt Lake City on the morning of the 21st to catch our flight back to Chicago.

We decided on an early rise and a drive to Second Mesa in Hopi-Land.

We planned to have breakfast there, at the Cultural Center, to give Melissa a first-hand native experience.

This resulted in us leaving at sunrise and driving east into the blazing sun. Even with the visor down, the vision was seriously impaired. We were creeping along the drive in front of El Tovar at under 5 miles per hour. It was a good caution. Suddenly, directly in front of the car, standing in the middle of the road, was a large buck elk. He towered over the car and was in no hurry to move from
his road. He was accompanied by another younger buck and two or three does.

It was a stunning vision.

We stopped so the entourage could clear the road and so we could shoot photographs of this very close personal encounter.

We concluded that this probably was the same group of elk that had left their calling cards on the rim path a day earlier.

Hyped up by the experience, we continued on our way, only to realize that we had forgotten to check out when we left Bright Angel Lodge. We decided to return just to be certain they would know we had left. We were not that far down the road.

After stopping again at the Lodge lobby and telling the reception desk that we were leaving, we started out again.

By now the elk family had moved on, but we did see another group of deer or smaller elk while retracing our eastward route.Aside from a short stop at the Watch Tower on on the east end of the South Rim, where we saw some different perspectives on the canyon, we were on our way.
The trip required us to drive up Route 89 to a road that enters and passes through the Hopi Reservation.

Hopi is made up principally of three mesas, although many Hopi today live in areas below the mesas. The mesas are identified as First Mesa, Second Mesa and Third Mesa, said to be in the order the Spanish invaders encountered them.

The Hopi Reservation is completely surrounded by the much larger Navajo Reservation. Conflicts between the Hopi and the Navajo over land ownership and use go back many generations.

The mesas were settled by the Hopi for reasons of security.

Centuries ago, a mesa was a difficult height to climb without being seen and was easier to defend from attack than a flatland community. Since the mesas are not suited to sufficient agriculture to support the population, the Hopi became very inventive subsistence farmers. Corn is planted not in rows but in individual mounds of three or four plants, which can be watered efficiently. This is an important consideration in the arid desert the Hopis inhabit.

When driving west to east, Third Mesa is the first one the road passes through. It is the lcoation of Old Oraibi. It was said to be founded in about 1150 and is said to be the oldest continually occupied village in North America, although many Native American villages make a similar claim. In any case, it is extremely orthodox and conservative and does not generally welcome visitors.

Second Mesa is the Home of the Hopi Cultural Center, which includes a restaurant, hotel, arts and crafts co-op, Hopi museum and a handful of small galleries or shops.

Second Mesa ia very important to me. I often feel it is a spiritual center of the universe for me, even though I have no Hopi blood that I know of. Perhaps the power of a place can transcend tribal affiliations.

In any case, the importance of Second Mesa to me is underscored by an experience I had on my first visit there. We had driven to Hopi from Flagstaff. We visited the arts and crafts co-op which was packed with Hopi jewelry, pottery and paintings. (It appears to have since fallen into disfavor with Hopi artists and has very little material on display; very sad for me).

While there I saw a painting by Milland Lomakema that captured my fancy.

It was a Mondrianesque representation of the Second Mesa Cultural Center. Driving back to Flagstaff, I was seized by the compulsion to own that painting. Susanne allowed me to turn around and drive back to Second Mesa just to buy the painting.
It now hangs on the wall of my living room, a small piece of Second Mesa in my home.

Back to the trip, we stopped at the Cultural Center for breakfast. I had blue corn pancakes. I always have blue corn pancakes when in Hopi. Susanne also had the blue corn pancakes, but Melissa chose French toast. Not much was left on our plates so I concluded every one else enjoyed theirs as much as I enjoyed mine.

After breakfast, we spent a few minutes walking the area. Susanne and I have stayed in the motel more than once. This time, however, it was a quick tour of the two open shops and the museum before moving on.

We did see a necklace we admired in one of the shops.

Buying it would have exceeded our sensibility about a fair price. So, lacking the storekeeper's willilngness to deal, we moved on.

Driving out of Second Mesa, we passed the entrance road to First Mesa, the home to the legendary community of Walpi. Founded in the 1600s, it exists today largely as it did hundreds of years ago. It has been the location for many photos of Hopi people.

At the foot of First Mesa is Keam's Canyon, with a grocery store, restaurant and McGee's Trading Post. We know the owners and respect them as knowledgable and fair people. Then, it is up the canyon side again to head east through pine forests to Window Rock.

But first we pass Hubbell's Trading Post, famous for the founding owner's contributions to the Navajo blanket and rug trade.

Soon we reached Window Rock. It is a thriving Navajo community and headquarters for the tribe. Not far beyond we reached Gallup and I-40 (nee the famous Route 66, where I got some kicks years before the Interstate System was completed)

From Gallup, Susanne drove east to Albuquerque.

Ironically, one of Susanne's favorite geological phenomena is the lava beds left from volcanic activity centuries ago. The windrows of stoney, black lava line the road. They are fascinating to see and have created numerous ice caves beneath thier crests. The irony is that Sue was looking forward to sharing that visual experience with Melissa. Alas, both Melissa and I slept almost all the way to Albuquerque. So much for early rising.

In Albuquerque, we stayed at the Rio Grande Best Western motel on the west end of town. Susanne and I had stayed there more than once in the past. It had been seriously upgraded since then and was quite comfortable, swimming pool and all. The only disappointment was that the AAA guide we relied on to determine the current status of the place said it served a complimentary breakfast.

When we went to the restaurant the next morning, we were told the complimentary breakfast had been discontinued but hotel guests received a 20% duscount off their breakfast check. I hate to be chintzy, but that just didn't seem right to me. If you promise something or it is promised on your behalf, you should deliver it. I know that is what we do with our tribal arts business.

So, if you are traveling through Albuquerque and consider stopping at the Rio Grande Inn, book directly with them and ask questions concerning what has been promised and what is likely to be delivered.

We had dinner the night before at the restaurant at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque. This facility has seriously upgraded since our last visit. It now includes a pleasant outdoor terrace on which to dine. The aftrnoon we were there , however, it was much too hot to eat outside. July in New Mexico after all. What would we expect?

Previous visits to the IPCC no alcohol was served.

We thought things were the same since there was no wine list. We were half way through our meal when we noticed what appeared to be a beer on a neighboring table.

So we asked.

Yes, they had recently received a license to serve alcohol and wine was available. So we imbibed. It was one of those, "if you don't ask, you won't know" incidents. Assume nothing.

The IPCC gallery and shop is a wonderful place to experience Pueblo native crafts and art.

We walked Melissa through the rooms and described whatever she asked about.

The next day (after the breakfast we felt cheated about) we drove up to Santa Fe. We took Melissa to see the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian. The exhibit there, which we did not know about before hand, was of drawings created by well-known Indian artists of today, when they were students in the Indian School.

Fascinating to see the talent of these masters when they were mere art students.

The pictures had the added value of depicting home life for the students.

We did not overnight in Santa Fe since we were a long way from Salt Lake City and had just two days to get there for our flight home.

Instead, we headed north through Durango and on through some of the most beautiful Rockies scenery, complete with incredibly twisty roads and surprising views. Our next stop was to be Montrose, Colorado. We arrived early in the afternoon, checked into a new Days Inn, to which we referred when we had called another Montrose motel and they were filled. Cooperation among theoretic competitors serves everyone and is to be applauded and encouraged.

Crass commercial break: We always refer people to other companies if we don't have what they are looking for or we can't answer their question - and we get lots of questions we can't answer.

Dinner in Montrose was at a local Chinese buffet. (I know. I know. But I love Chinese food, which I am pretty sure is made here. Altough, on a steam table you sometimes wonder.)

Anyway, as a new or newly remodelled motel, the Days Inn in Montrose was a very comfortable stay and included a
real complimentary breakfast.

The next morning we continued our drive north to Salt Lake City.

By this time connected to I-15, with its HOV lane, which we used effectively. Looking for lodging near the airport - e had a morning flight - we had found the SkyHarbor Inn. We had reserved a night's stay, again using AAA.

When we showed up, they had no record of our reservation. Fortunately, I had an email print out verifying that we had booked. Still. much rig-a-ma-role. Call the manager. Wait in the lobby. Check with AAA. A whole lot of delay after a long drive. The general feeling was that we were incidental to the business, not important to it.

Finally, they relented and put us into a unit.

Sky Harbor is a condo hotel, meaning the units generally are owned by individuals and placed in the condo association rental pool. The unit was okay. The problem was that it was on the second floor, up a long steep flight of stairs, with a loft up another flight.

We had to schlep everything up the stairs in order to get organized for the next days flight. This was not good news for a guy with a bad knee after days of traipsing through park lands.

On the plus side, there was a nice pool and fitness center, albeit a fair hike form our unit. Internet service is important to us. They had advertised wireless. But it wasn't inthe rooms. It was in the fitness center/pool area. Another Sky Harbor disappointment.

Anyway, we were up the next morning, got to the airport with plenty of time to turn in our rental car and check in for our flight.

Shortly, we were airborne and on our way back to Chicago to deliver Melissa to her eager parents.

Quite an adventure. We even got into some Native American tribal culture and art. How else could we, with four web sites featuring tribal art -,, Native-PotteryLInk .com and - have ended the trip?

Future issues of Tribal Artery will focus more on that subject.

I hope these digressions were interesting enough to justify their existence. Thank you.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Day Nine at the Grand Canyon

This report is posted by William Ernest and Susanne Waites, dealers and collectors of Native American and othre tribal art, and operators of web sites at,, and

We arose and sauntered to the El Tovar Lodge for breakfast, pausing to watch the sunrise. Along the path, we saw some deposits of scat, which we assumed to be droppings from elk that ventured along the path overnight
For breakfast, Susanne and Bill ordered the usual eggs and stuff. Melissa ordered a cinnamon bun. To our surprise, it was humungous, filling the entire plate. (That is not a saucer or salad plate; that is a dinner plate.) We laughed about it all day.

We commented yesterday about the Fred Harvey Company.
One of their additions to the Grand Canyon experience, was the Hopi House. It was built and operated as a gift shop.

The saga of the hat.

Speaking of gift shops, I have been searching for ball cap with American flag motif and had all but given up.
Every gift shop I looked through had hats with park logos.

I even had purchased a Grand Tetons hat with graphics that I liked.

But I was not able to find one with a flag and, more troubling, every hat
I picked up said "Made in China".

Now, I have nothing against Chinese people. But I am troubled that so much of our trade deficit is going to China. So, I have generally decided to avoid buying goods made in China.

Finally, on our last day at the Grand Canyon, there was a single hat sitting alone on a shelf amidst stacks of other, non-flag, hats. It was sporting the words "Grand Canyon" and an American flag design.

I thought this lonely hat with the flag was placed
there for me by some invisible force. Would it too be China-made?

With trembling hand, I picked up the hat to
check for the country of origin. It said, "Made in Bangladesh".

That works for me. I take the cap, the only one in the store, the only one I have seen in any store since the start of our trip. I wanted to share my elation at my successful quest. At the check-out counter, I looked up to see the clerk's name tag said he was from China. I quietly put my money on the counter, deciding discretion was the better part of a "good" story,

After breakfast, we rode the shuttle tram again with stops at various vantage points.
Among them, a stop at the general store to pick up wine for the evening at the cabin.

In the morning, we attended a Park Ranger presentation about fossils at the Grand Canyon. These were found, not in the canyon strata, but at the South Rim. Geologists believe this is evidence of a one-time inland sea existing before the Colorado River began to cut the canyon through the plateau. (After looking at the photo below, we saw imagery that looks like a rabbit holding a boomerang. But the "boomerang" is the tube fossil.)
For dinner, We chose the Arizona Room, a special dining room adjacent to the Bright Angel Lodge. I had ribs, some the best I have ever had. Susanne had quesadilla, her selection of choice many times. Mel had pasta, one of her favorites.
It is easy to pass time at the Grand Canyon, doing nothing but sitting and watching nature. Among our finds were two condors resting separately on rock ledges below the rim, waiting for the evening cool to create updrafts. We watched and watched as they sat and sat. (See the bird sitting on the ledge in the highlighted area below.)Finally as the sun was going down, they were gone, disappearing into the purple haze of the canyon's fading light.

We recalled what we had learned about condors during the Park Ranger's
presentation on the North Rim. Fossils establish that condors have inhabited the area since the Ice Age.

Condors, which feed on carrion (dead animals) scavenged for the carcasses of various pre-historic creatures. As non-native explorers moved through
North America, California condors, the formal name for the birds, diminished in numbers. This has been attributed to the shrinking number of animals in the condor's diet, hunting, egg collecting and the pressure from modern developments such as chemicals and power lines.

In 1980, the California condor population in the wild, concentrated in California, was only 22.

In order to preserve the specie, naturalists and environmentalists captured the
California population and began a breeding in captivity program. Increases in the population allowed officials to release breeding couples back into the wild, primarily in California and Arizona.

These are birds visitors see at the Grand Canyon.

This was our last night at the canyon and as part of our previously planned trip. We placed the original reservations in January for a July trip. We were told that the limited number of accommodations required that we get our dibs in early or there would be nothing left for us.

were particularly adamant about reserving at the North Rim because there is only one lodge there. In fact, when discussing the trip with a travel agent who also was a personal friend, she was surprised that we got into the North Rim Lodge, even with January reservations.

From a personal standpoint, however, as impressive as the North Rim was, I found the South rim more hospitable. I will return to the South Rim some day. I think I may not take the trouble to go to the North Rim again.

Tomorrow, we say goodbye to the Grand Canyon and begin the ad hoc part of our trip.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Grand Tetons to Grand Canyon - Day Eight

Posted by William Ernest Waites, whose company operates tribal art web sites at,, and

Grand Tetons to Grand Canyon -
Day Eight
The South Rim

We enjoyed coffee in the coffee shop while waiting for the Dining Room to open to
open for breakfast. The Main Lodge Dining Room is a stunning room with soaring ceilings, white-clothed tables and windows overlooking the canyon.
When breakfast was finished, we pulled our car up as close as allowed to the cabin so it was easy get our bags into the trunk. At this point, the service of the baggage porter were not needed since we were leaving our parking spot anyway.

After checking out we headed out for the South Rim.

It is longer drive than it seems it should be to go from one side of the canyon to the other. Five hours of driving, which is testament to the immensity of the canyon.

Along the way we passed the Vermilion Cliffs, which are believed to be the nesting
area for condors. None were seen by us, however.

The approach to the South Rim is more dramatic than approaching the North Rim

We crossed over the Colorado River and drove along the Little Colorado Canyon. As the name suggests, it is a sample of the grandeur of the Grand Canyon. The following photographs will give you a sense of the breath-taking aspects of the Grand Canyon as seen from the South Rim.We were booked into the Bright Angel Lodge.

Our requested cabin, with a view at the canyon's edge, was not yet ready when we arrived. So we boarded the free shuttle tram to ride to the west end of rim - Hermits Rest.

Once again, the free shuttle is a great bargain.

It also reduces private car congestion. The trams do get get crowed as they stop and gather riders on the way back to the lodges. Standing crowds of "strap-hangers"
filled the buses eventually.

We also explored the vista from Kolb Studio and Lookout Studio, not far from the Bright Angel cabins. Looking down from there we could see a blue tarp and the white of the vehicle that had driven over edge. Sure enough. There it was!

When we returned to lodge we were checked into our cabin.It was beautifully situated so the windows overlooked the canyon. There was a queen bed and a roll-away bed had been added for Melissa. A fireplace was in one corner and there was a pair of easy chairs. The roll-away bed crowded the room so that getting to the easy chairs was anything but easy. But it was worth it to sink into the comfort of these chairs.

After settling in to the room, we applied our lunch/dinner strategy.

This got us into the Bright Angel Lodge dining room just at the end of lunch and before they closed until dinner. This strategy not only has us eating earlier so that we are not fighting a dinner crowd and not going to bed on full stomachs. It also allows us to order from the less expensive lunch menu.

Afterward, we strolled the walkway along the rim, including a visit to the famous El Tovar Lodge.

It is the granddaddy of Grand Canyon lodges.

It was the first lodge at the Grand Canyon, opened in 1905, and was designed in rustic style by Charles
It is believed to be the "model" for environmentally appropriate-styled buildings that were created elsewhere at the Grand Canyon and in other National Parks.

El Tovar was the flagship lodge for the Fred Harvey Company.

It eventually became an empire of hosting operations in restaurants, hotels, newsstands and Santa Fe Railway dining cars.

The company also spearheaded the collection and sale of Native American Indian made art and crafts at the Grand Canyon and along the Santa Fe Railway tracks.

We decided to have breakfast tomorrow at El Tovar, just for the experience.

Returning to our cabin, we sat and watched the colors change as the sun was setting.
Then to bed.